Day 2,689 since October 10th 2013: 194 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country
(The opinions expressed on this site are my own, and do not reflect the position or policies of the Danish Red Cross which I represent as a Goodwill Ambassador).
Work hard and achieve
We have now entered the year of the Metal Ox. Can you feel the difference? In late 2020 I announced that I have been working on something big which I look forward to sharing with you all. We are getting closer now! It is unfortunately not a solution to reach the next country but I think it will still make your jaw drop. Stay tuned over the next weeks and you’ll find out.
Last week’s entry: The long game – sticking it out in Hong Kong
‘Kung Hei Fat Choi’ is the Cantonese phrase used for saying “Congratulations and be prosperous” during the Chinese New Year. Yeah, I took some heat a few weeks ago for calling it Chinese New Year because “some people” had a different idea about what we should be calling it. I suppose the 1.4 billion Chinese don’t mind we call it Chinese New Year. Everyone I asked here in Hong Kong seemed perfectly fine with it. However, you are more than welcome to call it Spring Festival or Lunar New Year if you want. There are various theories about the origin of Chinese New Year but the one that is accepted by most is that it began with Emperor Yao in China's bronze age. When Emperor Yao ascended to the throne, he brought his subordinates and people together to worship the sky and the earth. The day of his inauguration was set as the starting day of a year, and people have gathered annually to worship ever since. China has influenced a great many cultures around the world and continues to do so today. Calling it Chinese New Year seems suitable to me as long as I’m here in Hong Kong. You can call it whatever you want :)
Kung Hei Fat Choi everyone! :)
The year of the Metal Ox is about hard work and those who work hard are said to be rewarded in 2021. If you ask me, anyone who works hard is bound to be rewarded eventually. However, you need to combine hard work with working smart. There are plenty of people who break their backs working really hard every day and hardly see any significant payoff. Your direction in life has a lot to do with your personal input. Don’t expect to get what you want if you’re not willing to put in the hours. And perhaps this year – the year of the Metal Ox – will be your year.
Cassies's hotpot! OMG - as Harry would say! ;)
The Savagars invited me for homemade hotpot in Sai Kung and that offer was too good to resist. The Savagars have been very kind to me and invited me to stay in their guestroom even before we reached Hong Kong in January 2020. We sort of went through the pandemic together as I stayed with the family for five months. Ah, I remember when I used to think the virus outbreak would be over with in just a few months. Here were all are…much wiser. Or maybe not. But here we are. Cassie is a genius in the kitchen and the hotpot was other worldly! While Cassie was getting the food ready James and I saw second half of ‘The Mole’ which features an interesting character called “Mr James”. Edward was busy with his iPad and Harry was out playing with his friends. The windows were outfitted with traditional Chinese New Year decorations. It was really nice. Once we finished dinner, I was ready to roll over and die. Rarely do I eat that much but it was sooooooo good and Cassie kept adding more food to my bowl. We finished the evening playing Kahoot before I headed back home. Interestingly a very popular New Years gift consists of Danish butter cookies in a round tin can of the Danish brand Kelsen! That is funny for several reasons. First of all, the factory is nearby where I grew up as a child, and my mother worked at the factory for a while. I have memories of her bringing us cookies. It’s also funny because every year Maersk orders a large quantity of these cookies and hands them out left and right to employees, customers, partners etc. Between Cassie and James, they have more than forty years of Maersk working experience and have certainly seen their fair share of Kelsen cookies. I brought a tin can anyway :)
Lai see envelopes decorating the tree.
‘Lei see’ or ‘red packets’ are fancy little red envelopes that contain good luck money. Giving lai see to people is a big part of the Chinese New Year celebrations and it follows certain rules. First of all, you give or receive lei see with both hands. That’s quite rudimentary out here in this part of the world and goes for business cards and many other things as well. The amount the envelops contain can be anything but I have found that a very common amount is HKD 20.00 (USD 2.60). My favorite thing about lei see is that the amount doesn’t matter – it is the gesture which is important. Kristy, who works in marketing at Ritz Carlton, invited her husband Mark and I to join the hotels New Year celebration ceremony. Lots of lei see were being handed out left and right!! And all of it for good luck and fortune. It is sort of a top-down system where you receive lei see from your boss but do not give your boss lei see. And you are not expected to hand out lei see if you are unmarried. In households only children receive lei see. So, when I joined the Savagars for hotpot Cassie and James got nothing (except for cookies) while I gave Edward and Harry an envelope each.
Lion dance during the New Year God Worship Ceremony at the Ritz Carlton driveway.
At the Ritz, Kristy and Mark were handing out lei see left and right. Kristy had a handbag which would have contained hundreds of envelops! She laughed and told me that she would soon run out and have to return to her office for more. At the elevator we came across some staff and Kristy immediately offered them lei see but they all humbly declined saying that they already received. LOVE IT!! That really goes to prove that it is the gesture and not the money which is important. Such honesty and honor! While I love Egypt, I just couldn’t see this operating the same way there. Or in many other countries to be honest. While people around the world are just people it is interesting to see how elements of culture affect us. The ceremony involved a priest of sorts, a roasted pig, blessings and lion dance! Lion dance is a form of traditional dance in Chinese culture and other Asian countries in which performers mimic a lion's movements in a lion costume to bring good luck and fortune. It is accompanied by a lot of noise!! Earplugs are advised! Yet, it is super amazing to witness! I’ve seen it a few times before and it always adds to feeling of being far away from home - in a good way.
Andrew, Lantau Island, Hong Kong.
My friend Andrew from Chicago, USA, held a socially responsible farewell get-together before heading back home. We also managed to squeeze in a final hike together. We first met in June 2020 when my beard was shorter and I have long ago lost count of how many hikes we have been on since then. Andrew was featured in South China Morning Post last year for having hiked all of Hong Kong’s trails which is quite an accomplishment. After 2.5 years of working in finance (common trade among many expats) he accepted a job back home. I will miss Andrews sharp mind and calm personality. Within the Saga I have rarely been long enough anywhere to see people leave. Coming and leaving is a part of life in Hong Kong and I have already seen many good friends leave. There goes another one.
Andrew heading up Dogs Teeth Ridge.
Our final hike was a trail known as East Dogs Teeth Ridge. Some say it’s the hardest in Hong Kong but both Andrew and I shake our heads at that. It is no beginners trek though. We headed up under a clear blue sky and had great visibility across the islands. What a wonderful way to say farewell to Hong Kong. When my time comes, I know that I will cry. I feel so connected to Hong Kong by now. My tears will likely also be of joy for finally leaving! But for now, it seems that we will still have several months to go before that becomes reality.
Lantau Island, Hong Kong.
As some of you already know I’ve been given the honor of working as the assistant of the Danish Seamen’s Church in Hong Kong. I’m contracted by Danske Sømands- og Udlandskirker (DSUK) in Denmark and have some wonderful colleagues here some 8,662km (5,382.32mi) away from home.
Another day on the job.
In my job I service Danish flagged ships which have so far only been Maersk vessels. No wonder as they are the world's largest container shipping company by both fleet size and cargo capacity! Maersk has provided this unique project we call Once Upon A Saga with great assistance and support for several years now. I have been spotting their containers globally across more than 190 countries while tweeting them to Maersk as #MaerskMoments. Furthermore, I have had the pleasure of visiting Maersk offices across more than fifty countries in which I have entertained and inspired staff with stories and adventure. In return I have frequently had access to their ships as a passenger, I have many friends within Maersk, they have provided me with invitation letters, accommodation, meals and I have joined several company events. The connection goes beyond that and I jokingly call them “the unofficial partner of Once Upon A Saga” :)
Newspapers in all sorts of languages.
Among my daily chores I email the ships letting them know that we are ready to service them as well as possible during these troublesome times. As such I often run errands buying the seafarers whatever they request. So far that has been anything from a PS5 to coffee, food supplements and guitar strings. We also print out newspapers in multiple languages thanks to the support of SEA HEALTH & WELFARE. Once I have everything ready I head to the port and deliver. But these days seafarers cannot leave the ship unless they are scheduled for crew change and us landlubbers cannot join the ships for lunch or coffee. So, I simply deliver, thank them for their serve and wish them: fair winds and following seas.
The port of Hong Kong is one of the busiest ports in the world.
Yeah – a lot of things are going well for Once Upon A Saga even though we have no chance of continuing to the remaining nine countries and have been stuck in Hong Kong for more than a year. Yesterday I received notice from Instagram that the account has finally been verified! That is pretty cool. The verification is, much as the word says, a verification of a notable public figure, celebrity or global brand. It is simply a small blue star next to the account name. Anyone can create an account called Once Upon A Saga but now people can easily find the authentic account. The other part of getting verified is pure status. The little blue star is a coveted addition to any account. The Secretary General of the Danish Red Cross (Anders Ladekarl) has several times been fighting fake accounts in his name with profiles claiming to be the Secretary General. You can probably imagine how that can be dangerous. Once Upon A Saga’s Facebook account got verified a long time ago and while both Facebook and Instagram are part of the same company we simply couldn’t get verified until now.
Excellent scene in Kung Fu Hustle staring Hong Kong's Stephen Chow! Notice the background ;)
There’s as always lots of stuff going on in the background of this project. I don’t feel the need to share it all but I do think you should know that I am somewhat stretched for time. I get an awfully lot done across an average week which is both good and bad. Good because it is always good to get stuff done. Bad because I rarely give myself a break. I pick up small stuff as well which I shouldn’t be spending my time on. For instance, a friend and I got into a debate about the length of one of Hong Kong’s four long-distance trails: the Hong Kong Trail. The length is often listed as 50km (31mi) between markers 001-100 but I have been doubting the distance since the very first time I went across it. Also, some of my friends and I are aware that official races often extend the course (well beyond the markers) to Shek O adding extra distance to meet the 50 km required for the races. Marker number 100 is found at Big Wave Bay indicating that the trail might be 47km (29mi) and not 50km. Furthermore, my personal GPS readings often read around 46-47 km for the Hong Kong Trail. I’m not one to back down from a debate – especially not one in which I believe that I am right. The problem with claiming that a distance is shorter than what people think, is that you are “steeling” from people’s achievements. If you believe you hiked or ran 50km and find out the distance was really 47km then it is less of an achievement. Still a great achievement though.
Well, right is right. I wrote the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) and lo and behold they replied with the above answer!! AFCD is, among other things, responsible for managing Hong Kong’s country parks and they do a mighty fine job of that if you ask me! And now we know that the length of the Hong Kong Trail is 47.5km (+/- 1km).
Our final nine countries depicted by Iceland's RUV. Full interview here.
Yes – silly regarding the trail length, I know. But I can assure you that my time is spent on more important things as well. Once Upon A Saga is a far more demanding project than what most people imagine. And I work hard on keeping this “train on its rails”. We would not have come this far without the support of our partners. Especially Ross DK and Geoop have been invaluable over and over again. Not only have they covered about 50% of the project’s expenses…back in early 2014 they arranged for us to travel across the North Sea onboard the good ship Westerkade, which brought us from Iceland to Canada. And they did that by contacting Reederei-Buss in Germany who owned the ship. There have been so many connections and so many people across the years. And I am grateful for every one of them! Thank you all!
If you enjoyed this blog or think I am doing a good job then you can support here below. The Saga still needs funding. Thank you :)
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - verified.
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga
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